Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West

Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West

William Cronon

Language: English

Pages: 592

ISBN: 0393308731

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


"Magnificent... the best work of economic and business history I've ever read."―Paul Krugman

In this groundbreaking work, William Cronon gives us an environmental perspective on the history of nineteenth-century America. By exploring the ecological and economic changes that made Chicago America's most dynamic city and the Great West its hinterland, Mr. Cronon opens a new window onto our national past. This is the story of city and country becoming ever more tightly bound in a system so powerful that it reshaped the American landscape and transformed American culture. The world that emerged is our own.

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business with customers and suppliers located hundreds of miles away.41 Gateway Rivalry: Chicago and St. Louis The many advantages that merchants enjoyed by doing business in Chicago reflected its position atop the western hierarchy of cities. Once the city had developed the high-order wholesale trade and specialized economic functions that made it a regional metropolis, those functions reinforced each other and helped maintain its relative position. The more stable and self-sustaining the

Industry in Antebellum Wisconsin, 1830–1860. Madison: SHSW, 1972. ———. The Rise of the Midwestern Meat Packing Industry. Lexington: Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1982. Ward, James A. Railroads and the Character of America, 1820–1887. Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1986. Warner, Charles Dudley. Studies in the South and West with Comments on Canada. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1889. Weaver, J. E. North American Prairie. Lincoln, Neb.: Johnsen, 1954. ———. Prairie Plants and Their Environment:

merged with, 267 geography of, 56–57 grain and, 98 human economy and, 62 livestock industry and, 223 meat as commodity and, 256 “selling short,” 124 Senate Select Committee on the Transportation and Sale of Meat Products, 246–47, 254, 255 serial law, 38–39 settlers, 104, 109, 150, 153, 213 Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 151 Sheboygan and Fond du Lac Railroad, 382 sheep, 100, 218, 220, 221, 226 Sherman Yards, 209 shipping, 56, 86–89 lumber and, 170, 172 rail rates and, 87 risks of, 57,

more true than in Chicago. Farmers brought a new human order to the country west of the Great Lakes, as revolutionary in its own way as the train or the city itself. Potawatomis and other Indian peoples had been raising corn on small plots of land around Lake Michigan for generations, but always on a limited scale. The new Euroamerican farmers, on the other hand, raised corn with an eye to the market, and so grew much greater quantities on much larger plots of land, especially once they could

annual fires—many of them set by Indians—that had formerly kept trees from invading the grassland.11 It made no sense to spend hundreds of hours and dollars erecting fences or building barns only to have them burn to the ground. So rural inhabitants employed various techniques—plowing firebreaks, mowing fields, reducing natural fuel sources, and fighting fires directly—to diminish the number of fires. Once fires ceased to burn back saplings, trees reappeared on whatever lands escaped the effects

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